The worst of the heat has dissipated (at least for now? Please?), which means we can all stop complaining about the weather and turn our attention to summer reading. Here are six new paperbacks, all potentially compelling choices for lazy afternoons.
“Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery” by Erica C. Barnett (Penguin, $17). The debut book from Seattle journalist Barnett (currently editor/publisher of PubliCola) is an unflinching examination of her own difficult journey to sobriety, one that took her through frequent blackouts and multiple stints in rehab. “Emotionally devastating and self-aware,” wrote Publishers Weekly in a starred review, “this cautionary tale about substance abuse is a worthy heir to Cat Marnell’s ‘How to Murder Your Life.’”
“Incense and Sensibility” by Sonali Dev (HarperCollins, $15.99). I only just learned, by chance, of Dev’s charming-sounding romance series, inspired by Jane Austen and set amongst an Indian American family in California. This book, the third in the series, involves a gubernatorial candidate named Yash Raje suffering from panic attacks who turns to the state’s foremost stress management coach: India Dashwood. “Yash and India are consistently endearing in their commitment to creating an egalitarian and empathetic world,” wrote a Kirkus reviewer, concluding, “Warmth and humor leaven an emotionally intense romance.”
“The Pull of the Stars” by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown, $16.99). Donoghue, known for exquisite historical fiction (“The Wonder,” “Frog Music”) and wrenching contemporary novels (“Room”), here combines both: Her 11th novel is set during the 1918 epidemic, as a devastating new disease overwhelms the country. “Readers familiar with Donoghue’s masterly 2010 bestseller, ‘Room,’ will recall the focused intensity she can bring to bear on constricted spaces,” wrote a New York Times reviewer. “Like ‘Room,’ ‘The Pull of the Stars’ takes place almost entirely in a single room” — the fever/maternity ward in a Dublin hospital — “and unfolds at the pace of a thriller.”
“Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Random House, $17). You’d think fall/winter would be the best time to read a gothic novel; nonsense, I read this book in hardcover on a bright August evening last year and it left me happily shivering. Set in 1950s Mexico, where a young woman is sent to her family’s decaying ancestral mansion, it’s a wonderfully atmospheric tale, weaving together fairy tales, gothic horror, period romance and dark fantasy. At its center is a creaking, secret-filed house; the sort into which it’s easy to disappear.
“A Time for Mercy” by John Grisham (Random House, $18). Grisham’s small-town Mississippi lawyer Jake Brigance first appeared in the 1985 novel “A Time To Kill”; this book is his third appearance and, writes New York Times reviewer Sarah Lyall, “you get the feeling that Grisham, who has written several dozen books by now, has returned to the place closest to his heart.” It’s now the 1990s, and Jake has taken on another client who is both very sympathetic and very guilty. “This is a leisurely story, told by a master of plotting and pacing, and there’s no use in him or us rushing our way through it,” writes Lyall. “Clanton is a complicated town, a community of old grudges and deep connections driven by forces like race, class, religion, politics and family. Grisham helps us understand, if not quite sympathize with, most everyone in the book.”
“The Devil and the Dark Water” by Stuart Turton (Sourcebooks, $16.99). The bestselling author of “The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” returns with another thriller, this one set in the 17th century on board a haunted ship — which just happens to be transporting the world’s greatest detective. “The locked room murder meets a Michael Bay movie, by way of ‘Treasure Island,’” wrote a reviewer in The Guardian. “You can’t know what’s going on, if only because the author won’t let you know until he’s delivered the final surprise — and another one after that. The effect is irresistible.”